SOLIDWORKS Simulation is a widely used tool to verify designs and minimize the prototyping phase. What if it could be used in conjunction with 3D printing? Well, it can! Engineers can 3D print simulation results with PolyJet 3D printing technology. This is a fantastic way to display information to other engineers and designers about simulation results due to the inherently robust communication with a 3-dimensional, physical copy of a 3D printed part. Teams can better identify hot spots, critical points and deformations by looking at the 3D printed part in their hand. Let’s look at how this is done.
Once a simulation has ended, it will generate resultant plots that cover anything from stresses, strains, Factor of Safety and more. The great thing about SOLIDWORKS Simulation is the customization of these resultant plots. Right-click any of them to access their properties to change anything from the deformation scale (which is not 1 by default) to max and min values. This is important because this will adjust how your resultant plot is generated, thus adjusting how your 3D printed simulation results will look. This is where values can be adjusted to help designers and engineers focus on hot spots and deformation. The plots below are the results of the same simulation. If you notice, this simulation expert may have wanted to highlight points above 1e7 N/m2 and to highlight the deformation this part may go through when put under stress.
After the plots have been set, they can now be pushed out to a 3D printing program that supports VRML files such as GrabCAD Print. When one of the resultant plots is right-clicked in the Simulation Feature Manager, users can select Save As and save the file as a VRML plot. Two very important things to do are, first, go into the System Options and navigate to the Export section. Next, select the units that you want to export. I find the best results using meters. Then you must go into the Document Properties and navigate to Units. Here you must make sure any length dimensions are set to the same units. Once the units are set, you are ready to export. Just make sure to select the VRML format (.wrl) since it will be the only 3D type that will also include the color texture.
When the file is saved out separately from the original simulation/CAD file, it is ready to be exported into any 3D printing program that accepts VRML files. Make sure the program you are using is set to the same units that you selected inside of SOLIDWORKS. For example, GrabCAD Print has an option to set the units of imported parts. If the units in the CAD and printing programs are misaligned, it may change the scale of your part. Once you see your part inside of your slicing software, make sure you can see the appropriate color texture on your part. Parts that appear greyscale or in all-white may be an indicator that the printer being used and the materials loaded may not give you the result that you’re looking for. Printing on a Stratasys J55 3D printer will absolutely nail this print. Once it’s sliced, print it out and share your simulation results with everyone in the office.
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